tek's rating: ½

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (PG-13)
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Caution: potential spoilers.

"Pride and Prejudice" is an 1813 novel by Jane Austen, which, sadly, I have never read. There have been numerous adaptations of it, over the years, but I don't think I've actually seen any of them. (Unless you count Bridget Jones's Diary.) I'm actually a bit surprised, upon reflection, to find that I haven't seen any straightforward adaptation of the novel. I feel as if I have, probably in part because of having been aware of at least a couple of the adaptations that I hope to see someday, and because of having seen adaptations of a couple of Austen's other novels, "Mansfield Park" and "Emma". (I could also mix up any of Austen's other books or characters in my head, despite having read none of the novels and seen only two of them adapted.) Anyway, to the best of my knowledge, none of Austen's books include zombies. But "Pride and Prejudice" was parodied in the 2009 book "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," by Seth Grahame-Smith (which I also haven't read), which was adapted into this movie in 2016. The book led to a minor trend of literary/horror mashups, including "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters" (which I haven't read, but would love to see adapted into a movie).

In the early 19th century, England is beset by zombies. The movie begins with a scene in which a zombie-hunting soldier named Colonel Fitzwilliam Darcy comes to a whist party being held by a wealthy family. He uses flies that he keeps in a vial to detect dead flesh, as those who have only recently been infected can easily pass as normal humans. He finds the zombie among the guests and deals with it. That's before the main story of the movie begins. Between the introductory scene and the main story, there's a history lesson about how the current situation in England came about.

The main story focuses on the Bennet sisters: Jane (Bella Heathcote), Elizabeth (Lily James), Mary (Millie Brady), Kitty (Suki Waterhouse), and Lydia (Ellie Bamber). Well, mostly it focuses on Elizabeth (the second oldest) and to a lesser extent Jane (the oldest, at 22). Lydia (the youngest, at 15) does play a somewhat important part in the plot, eventually. I don't really know what to say about Kitty or Mary at all. Except that all five girls are pretty badass, since their father, Mr. Bennet (Charles Dance), had insisted on all of them training in martial arts and swordsmanship from an early age. But while most wealthy people in England send their children to Japan to study that country's martial arts, Mr. Bennet had had his daughters study Chinese martial arts, which he considers superior. (The fact that the Bennet girls studied in China instead of Japan is the source of some ridicule from their social peers, but the Bennets don't seem to let it bother them, because they know how skilled they are.) Anyway, the Bennets go to a party, where Mrs. Bennet (Sally Phillips) hopes her daughters will find potential husbands. There is an immediate attraction between Jane and Charles Bingley, who is friends with Darcy. Darcy seems to be interested in no one, though actually he likes Elizabeth... but fights his feelings, and in doing so, insults her. So... things don't go well between those two.

Well... the Bennets are later visited by Mr. Bennet's cousin, Parson William Collins (Matt Smith). He hopes to woo Jane, and is disappointed to learn she's already spoken for, by Mr. Bingley. Eventually he decides to turn his attention to Elizabeth, but she's not interested in him. Nor anyone, really; she prefers to focus on killing zombies. Later, Collins gets engaged to Elizabeth's friend Charlotte Lucas. And Elizabeth meets a soldier named Lt. George Wickham, who at first seems a suitable match for her. However, there is bad blood between him and Darcy. Anyway, Wickham takes Elizabeth to a church whose entire congregation is zombies. He tells her they only eat pigs' brains, not human brains. Wickham wants to find a way for humans and zombies to live together in peace, but he needs funds for that, and England's government is nearly bankrupt because of the war against zombies. So Elizabeth introduces him to Lady Catherine de Bourgh (Lena Headey), a wealthy noblewoman who is also a badass zombie-killer (and Darcy's aunt). But de Bourgh has no interest in helping Wickham with his plan.

Beyond this point, I don't want to reveal any more of the plot. But, you know, there are more romantic and dramatic plot twists, and battles against zombies. And... of course the whole concept of mashing up a Jane Austen story with zombies sounds like a ridiculous joke. And on one level, it is. But I also think it actually works out far better than one might expect to be possible. Like, I really managed to take it seriously. I actually found the whole thing strangely believable, and felt that neither aspect of the story detracted in any way from the other. Rather, I thought it all meshed surprisingly well. So, the movie has some decent romance, a prestigious "period piece" feel to it, some cool action/horror, good characters, and some genuine humor, beyond the premise itself. Of course, it's entirely possible for others to completely disagree with my feelings about the movie, but I thought it was kind of brilliant.

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